The Cruel Frost

The night before last I woke up suddenly, long after midnight, with that strange, scratchy, dizzy feeling I get when the first grip of illness comes into my awareness.

So I was not just tired, I was also sick.  We’ve had so few illnesses this spring compared to last year when Rose was attending pre-school for two days a week.  The exposure level from all those little kids is just incredible.  Last week Clothilde had a runny nose, and I knew, eventually, I would also get sick.  It always happens that way.  Everyone’s always crowding into my lap and spilling out, because these little babies of mine have really grown too large to all sit on me.  They cough, sneeze, laugh, breathe, accidentally splutter into my face all the time. 

In the beginning of this week, two things have happened.  The first one is that we only have three pumpkins left from last year’s garden.  The second thing is that we planted some tomatoes, peppers, and ground cherries in the garden already, and the cold spell that came through on Friday killed all but the tomatoes.

Last year I was so overprotective of my little starts, I didn’t plant them until late May.  The insects and pests were very hard on them, and I thought perhaps if I had started earlier…..We can cold-protect them now, with the metal hoops and the plastic. It didn’t get below 40 F, but it still killed them.  It’s so hard to see those tender, hopeful little things turn limp and brown

We had such a difficult time the past two weeks.  Mirin still has a few years of pre-teen yet before he is officially into the teen years, but there have already been signs – the criticism, the angry outbursts.  Reading this yesterday morning made me feel better – to see how this is not uncommon, for one thing, and to hear what I felt also expressed by other people.  The shock, the hurt, the heartbreak.  The feeling that I wasted my youth. These feelings were all there, while at the same time I wished they weren’t.  I wished I could just not care at all, and not be hurt by it.

And at the same time last week there was a little bit of my own teenage years that came back to me.  My mother discovered some emails I had written when I was 18 and travelling alone in France and Germany and sent them along.  Reading them brought back so many memories.  That year was an intense time for me.  I had left, partly to visit my friends I had made while travelling there the summer before, and partly as a reason to break up with a clingy and abusive boyfriend I had.  Here is a post-script from the end of my trip:

PS You guys don’t really miss me, do you?  No one from  my own family hardly sent me any mail.  I bet mom didn’t even read my letters.  That’s ok, i dont really
miss you guys either.  i am never around anyway.

The absolute aloneness I felt those years just came streaming back when I read them.  The isolation, the feeling that my family was glad I was gone, because I had failed them, without meaning to, in so many ways for all of my short life.  My mother only remembers that I was wayward and unworthy despite all the “tough love.”  In my memory she was heartless, self-centred, cruel, and incredibly critical – holding me to some mythical standard I could never hope to achieve, while my little brother watched in comfortable curiosity from his place of Impeccable Child at all the blame and torment I endured. 

Those letters felt like proof of my decision to act with virtue, even though my own worth was not seen by anyone in the world.  I kept writing, even though no one replied.  I refused to be the one that cut them off in bitterness, even if they cut me off in spite.  It was a conscious decision of integrity that brought me into an awareness about good and evil and the strength of spirit.

In some of my other letters, I could see the life I live now at age 30 taking shape in my mind and heart when I was 18. It steadied me a little, reading my own teenage thoughts.  So much of that criticism is because you want to improve, to do things better than your parents did, and I think that is a noble thing. 

I remember that desire to separate and become your own person.  Talking with Mirin last week, he told me, “I just need to get away.  I want to go live at the farm for a year at least, all alone.” While he really couldn’t manage living a year alone in the wilderness, emotionally he knows that space is what he needs. 

 I feel strengthened somehow, in leaving some space between us for now – just a little to let his transformation breathe while I find again the things that inspired me when I was young and idealistic.  And of course still keeping watch for the killing frost.

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